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The Limits of Science

[pk_box width=”600″ align=”none” text_align=”left”]But science is never the end of the story, because science cannot teach humans what they most need to know: the meaning of life and how to value it. The sciences are as practical as theoretical; science has evident survival value, teaching us how to gain benefits that we desire. But what ought we to desire? Our enlightened self-interest? Our genetic self-interest? More children? More science? The conservation of biodiversity? Sustainable development? A sustainable biosphere? The love of neighbor? The love of God? Justice? Equity? Charity? … After science, we still need help deciding what to value; what is right and wrong, good and evil, how to behave as we cope. The end of life still lies in its meaning, the domain of religion and ethics.[/pk_box]

—Holmes Rolston (Genes, Genesis, and God, 1999).

Authority and Application

“We learn the meaning of Scripture as we apply it to situations. Adam learned the meaning of “subdue the earth” as he studied the creation and discovered applications for that command. A person does not understand Scripture, Scripture tells us, unless he can apply it to new situations, to situations not even envisaged in the original text (Matt. 16.3; 22:29; Luke 24:25; John 5:39f.; Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:16f.; 2 Peter 1:19-21 – in context). Scripture says that its whole purpose is to apply truth to our lives (John 20:31.; Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:16f.). Furthermore, the applications of Scripture are as authoritative as the specific statements of Scripture. In the passages referred to above, Jesus and others held their hearers responsible if they failed to apply Scripture properly. If God says “Thou shall not steal” and I take a doughnut without paying, I cannot excuse myself by saying that Scripture fails to mention doughnuts. Unless applications are as authoritative as the explicit teachings of Scripture (cf. The Westminister Confession of Faith, I, on “good and necessary consequence”), the scriptural authority becomes a dead letter. To be sure, we are fallible in determining the proper applications; but we are also fallible in translating, exegeting, and understanding the explicit statements of Scripture.  The distinction between explicit statements and applications will not save us from the effects of our fallibility. Yet we must translate, exegete, and “apply” – not fearfully but confidently – because God’s Word is clear and powerful and because God gives it to us for our good.”

John Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1987), pp 84.